COVID-19 restrictions have Calgary tattoo shops worried about red ink

City artists have on-again, off-again business despite sanitized tattoo workplace

Tattoo bay at Strange World Tattoo's / SPENCER YU / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Tattoo parlours are being forced to close with the new COVID-19 safety measures despite their dedication to public health measures.

Some artists, however, plan on using this time to brush up on their skills.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the new COVID-19 guidelines earlier early last week. While some measures began immediately, many involving Calgary businesses started at 11:59 p.m. on May 9.

“This is a last resort and a necessary step. With cases continuing to rise, we have no choice but to take serious action now or jeopardize putting the health system at risk,” the Premier said.

“If we don’t do this now, if this doesn’t work, then we’ll need a much longer list of restrictions, which no Albertan wants to see.”

The new guidelines state that personal and wellness services were to close Sunday at midnight. Among those that are forced to close are the city’s tattoo shops.

Abiding by public health guidelines

Many artists and shop owners say they should remain open due to their high cleanliness standards.

Mona Schwindt, co-owner of Strange World Tattoos, feels that they have done more than what the health guidelines required of them.

“As far as we know, the evidence in the spread of COVID numbers is not related to personal services such as ourselves. We do maintain a very high level of sterilization and we were doing that prior to COVID. So what we have done is over and above what is even required,” Schwindt said.

Because of the closure, many tattoo parlours are being forced to make up time that will be lost. As a result, multiple shops were working well beyond their normal operating hours to accommodate customers.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to accommodate every client that we can prior to closure. We are starting early, working late, and working the weekends,” Schwindt said just prior to the new restrictions.

Shops have also argued that due to their social distancing guidelines that they’re lower risk than other public services that will remain open.

Steve Peace, owner of Immaculate Concept Tattoos, said that if he were able to remain open under the retail guidelines his worries would be lessened.

“I know that retail shops are operating at 10 per cent capacity and if I could just tattoo one person a day, I would not fall behind at all. If that were the case then shops would have a hope of being able to keep up with the bills,” Peace said.

Steve Peace of Immaculate Concept Tattoos. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Using the time to grow, learn

Many artists however feel that during this period that they can use this downtime in order to practice their art and come back stronger than ever. Local artist Kristen Fraser stressed the importance of practice during this time.

“The only thing you can really do is to keep those creative skills sharp and just keep your hands and muscle memory going,” Fraser said.

Peace said that during this period he’s going to spend a lot of his time creating new artwork and improving his skills as a tattoo artist.

“I’m going to use this time to design huge back pieces and come back as a better tattoo artist. Never stop learning ever and stop trying to raise your game,” Peace said.

The coming three weeks will prove to be difficult for tattoo parlours across the city. Schwindt is confident that things will soon look up for the industry.

“The light is at the end of the tunnel. I guess it will get better if we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do. We’ll continue to do what we can to keep people safe,” Schwindt said.

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